McClain’s Matt Bliss (17) carries the football while following blocks from Kyler Smith (60), Sam Faulconer (5) and Zach Crum (52).  (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)
McClain’s Matt Bliss (17) carries the football while following blocks from Kyler Smith (60), Sam Faulconer (5) and Zach Crum (52). (HCP Photo/Stephen Forsha)

LUCASVILLE — The McClain Tigers trailed by 14 points at halftime during their Saturday night Week 2 showdown with the Northwest Mohawks. They managed to cut the deficit in half during the third quarter, but the game eventually got away from the road team Tigers, with McClain falling by a 35-7 score at Valley High School. 

The Week 2 game was played at Valley High School as the Northwest Mohawks’ stadium continues renovations, and for McClain, they played strong at times, but the Mohawks played stronger for the entire game. Northwest scored 14 points in the first half, but eventually added 21 more points in the final two quarters to control the pace of the game on offense, while mostly stopping the Tigers with their defense, too.

The Tigers’ lone touchdown came in the third quarter when they began the scoring drive with the ball on the Northwest 19-yard line following a fumble recovery by Kyler Smith with 11:14 left in the quarter. Four plays later, MHS was in the end zone off a 1-yard run by Braden Wright. The ensuing PAT by Braeden Bergstrom made it a 14-7 score.

That was the high point for the Tigers (0-2) on Saturday night, as the rest of the game was controlled by the Mohawks.

Northwest finished the game with 47 rushes for 372 yards and four touchdowns. Leading the way was Brayden Campbell with 14 carries for 179 yards and three scores. Nathan Rivers totaled 104 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries for Northwest. Wyatt Brackman finished with 13 carries for 65 yards rushing.

“We had a big stop right at the end of the first half to keep it to a 14-point game, and they (Northwest) didn’t break any big plays until late in the game,” McClain head coach Jake Orr-Zody said. “They (Northwest) were consistently able to get three, four, five, six yards and kind of control the game, control the clock, control the ball, and we had a tough time defensively.

“With that, our first couple drives on offense we failed to move the ball, and they got some momentum from the get-go because they scored on their first drive and we didn’t have many first downs in the first quarter.”

For the game, the Tigers totaled 145 yards rushing on 39 rushing plays. They were led in rushing by Dalton Mischal with 69 yards on 11 carries. Matt Bliss finished with nine carries for 56 yards, and Sam Faulconer totaled five carries for 16 yards.

Wright had 12 rushes for 15 yards and the touchdown run, and he had three completions for 37 yards, including a 30-yard reception by Landen Eubanks in the fourth quarter.

Northwest first-year head coach Bill Crabtree spoke about the win and how his team controlled the game.

“Ball control is the key to our offense. If we have the ball in our hands, they can't score. We have to keep moving the chains. It worked out for us tonight,” Crabtree said following his first win at his alma mater. “We ran the ball with a lot of success. We have a lot of guys who can do good things out of the backfield, and our offensive line is coming along.

“We turned the ball over once and they capitalized on a short field, but we played aggressive all night long on defense and kids were flying to the football. It was nice to see.”

As for the host Mohawks (1-1), they struck first with a 12-play drive to start their offense in the first quarter, eventually ending with a 5-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal by Campbell with 4:52 left on the clock, as he powered his way through the defense of the Tigers. The PAT was good by Dakota Secrest for a 7-0 lead.

After the Tigers punted for the second straight possession, Northwest wasted no time adding to their lead, this time building a seven-play drive that began at their Tigers’ 49-yard line and ended with a 19-yard run by Rivers with 29 seconds left in the first quarter. The PAT was good again by Secrest for a 14-0 lead over McClain.

On their third possession, the Tigers were building a nice drive, having a 19-yard rush by Bliss and a 14-yard carry from Mischal. On a third down play from the NWHS 15-yard line, the Tigers fumbled the ball, with Braden Borens of the Mohawks recovering the ball and giving possession back to the home team with 7:24 left in the second.

The Tigers eventually regained possession with Mischal recovering a fumble, putting a stop to a drive by the Mohawks as they were on a second-and-goal play with 4:37 left in the quarter.

McClain was unable to capitalize on the fumble recovery, and the first half eventually ended with the Tigers trailing at 14-0.

At the start of the third quarter, the Tigers defense came out of the locker room strong by recovering a fumble on the second play of the half on the NWHS 19-yard line, with the fumble being recovered by Smith with 11:14 on the clock.

McClain took only four plays to reach the end zone, beginning with a five-yard rush by Bliss, followed by a 13-yard run to the 1-yard line by Mischal. The Tigers reached the end zone on the aforementioned 1-yard rush by Wright with 9:28 left in the third quarter.

From that point on, the Mohawks scored 21 unanswered points off three touchdowns, with those coming off a 5-yard rush by Campbell, a fumble recovery and return of 48 yards by Kaden Zumbro and an 88-yard run by Campbell. Including three more converted PATs, the Mohawks led 35-7 with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter.

Next for McClain is a road game on Friday, Sept. 13 at Zane Trace with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

(Editor’s note: Comments from Northwest head coach courtesy of sports writer Paul Boggs ... Also a photo gallery will be added to the article.)